The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Theatre Cedar Rapids — through May 26
The Hunchback of Notre Dame — directed by Angie Toomsen, assisted by Lisa Kelly and with musical direction by Janelle Lauer — opened Friday at Theatre Cedar Rapids (it runs through May 26; tickets are $25-52). With rich vocals from the first notes, a story of outcasts, sin and love was woven beautifully on stage. A complex, beautiful set, designed by Alexander Dodge, greets the audience and supports the storytelling throughout the show. S. Benjamin Farrar has created a lighting design that also tells the story. Truly, every aspect of this show works together to bring this musical drama so successfully to the stage.
Mic Evans is outstanding as Quasimodo, a deformed, pitiable human — but also a true hero. Evans’ acting and singing is on point as he brings Quasimodo’s story to life. But Evans is not alone: The entire cast tells the story in alternating narration throughout the show. The narration is delivered so well that the story is entirely engrossing.
Kehry Anson Lane is totally convincing as a Dom Claude Frollo; he is at once self-righteous and conflicted. His voice carries his lines as well as the lyrics; he delivers his sanctimonious pronouncements as evenly as he begs Esmerelda to love him. The foil to Lane’s pious Frollo is Esmerelda, played by Marita May. Enchanting and sincere, May brings this lively character to life through dance, song and interactions with nearly every character on stage.
Sage Spiker is well cast as Captain Phoebus de Martin, a man who struggles with loyalty, love and his own sense of honor. Spiker’s vocals are strong throughout; he truly is the dashing young soldier in this production. As the characters move through questions of love, friendship, evil, salvation and power, the audience enjoys exceptional vocal performances from the entire ensemble accompanied by a small but mighty orchestra.
In addition to the primary characters, the ensemble is made of strong singers. They are also inventively costumed (Joni Sackett) and choreographed (Erin Helm) in their many iterations: Roma, townspeople, statues and soldiers. While the stage combat could be tightened up, the dancing and movement throughout the show is natural and draws the audience into the story. And it would be unfair to leave out the patient choristers who are key to the richness of the group songs, and who create an air for foreboding within the cathedral itself.
The excellent performances of all characters — from the gargoyles (Samie James and Hannah Spina) to the saints to the main characters to the congregants and choir — bring to life a show that asks the audience to consider and reconsider evil, salvation, and, in the end, challenges us all to answer the question: Who is the real monster?